Ethics and vernacular architecture
© 2000 Warwick Fox. Those who are seriously concerned about the built environment, whether from a purely architectural viewpoint or with particular concern for its aesthetic, ecological, sustainable or other qualitative considerations, frequently use the perceived merits of vernacular architecture to further their arguments. Examples drawn from the Greek islands, or from the Middle East for instance, may be used to illustrate the beauty and simplicity of form, the structural and economic merits of materials such as earth, or the passive modification of the internal environment by wind-scoops. Sometimes the examples may be practically based, though more often they are employed to demonstrate intuitive responses to mankind’s psychological needs for meaningful spaces, harmonious forms and human scale. There is a fair measure of self-gratification in this admiration of the vernacular aesthetic and an inclination to disregard those vernacular traditions that do not satisfy the criteria of the viewer, who is rarely an ordinary member of the culture that produced the buildings. Such criteria are generally ethical, the ‘purity’ of form, the ‘truth to materials’, the ‘economy’ of means being ascribed moral value.